Kopalnia Złota Złoty Stok (Złoty Stok Gold Mine) is in Poland near the Czech border, about 100km south of Wroclaw. Gold was first exploited in the stream outside the current mine and underground extraction began in the first half of the 16th century.
A Gneiss time We entered the youngest Adit dated 1920 and labelled - in German - Gertruds Stollen or ‘Gertrude’s Tunnel or Adit’. For much of the mine’s life it was in German territory and hence follows German practice. The bedrock is largely gneiss with shale bands and the harder rock was in the early years split by hammering wooden pegs into bored holes and then expanding the pegs with water to split the rock. Later fire setting was used where the rock is heated by fire and then shattered with water but care has to be taken with the noxious gases released; gunpowder was first used in the mine in 1612. Gertrude Adit was only used for transport, and serviced the production areas of West and Cross Mountain.
We firstly visited the museum’s exhibition area in the brick-lined former explosive store where techniques, artefacts and the mine’s history were documented. As the gold was found in an iron-bearing bedrock, a compass was used to locate potential rich areas. The original galleries were around one metre by 70 centimetres but became larger when explosives and rail transport were introduced. The wagons were known as dogs as they made a characteristic barking noise when underway. The yield was around 5g of gold per tonne of ore and arsenic was also found and exploited. Over the life of the mine it yielded around 16.5 tonnes of gold – worth around 400 million pounds at present day prices but would have occupied an 80 cm cube in total! The exhibition also showed the separation process which used molten lead in graphite crucibles.
Health and Safety The facts and figures complete, we then descended to lower levels to explore the mine itself. We took a slide (one of the features to amuse children) to a lower level and were faced with an extensive display of original Health and Safety signs dating from the latter years of the mine. These were far from subtle and included the blunt ‘Do not pee in the washbasins’, the enigmatic ‘After finishing work, put on your underpants’ and my favourite ‘Do not try and mend machines whilst they are operating, otherwise you’ll end up wiping your arse with your elbow’. Exiting this part of the mine we climbed to a higher level and entered the Black Upper Adit.
Higher up we could see a small 16th century adit but we entered slightly lower in the more generously proportioned 18th century level. We descending by a modern spiral staircase to the Black Lower Adit where we hoped to see Poland’s only underground waterfall. Sadly because of the lack of recent rain we had to be satisfied with Poland’s only underground waterfall chamber. This lower level adit was a transport level and had been used by Germany in World War II for storage and shelter and a few remains of blast walls were still visible.
On a short detour off the normal route we saw a large shaft which had once housed a lift of which the huge counterweight could still be viewed. Our tour complete, we boarded carriages of the 50 cm railway and sitting astride benches made our exit from the mine. The guide told us that they still found gold in the mine but this turned out to be a Polish pun as the word Zloty is both the name of gold and of the Polish currency and tourists occasionally drop a few coins in the mine. Overall it was an interesting visit but perhaps over-geared at children with rather too many mentions of rats and bodily functions.